The above picture may not be exciting to you, but to me it is – I’ve been working for a couple years to get Prairie Smoke plants to grow in a difficult space in my front yard and this spring they came back!! Yep – I’m THAT neighbor. While my yard doesn’t look like The Addams family lives here, you will immediately notice the front lawn has more than its fair share of dandelions and Creeping Charlie (excellent early pollen resources for the bees) and several spaces devoted to native prairie grasses and plants. If you were to look in the back yard, you would see even more native garden spaces (I’m excited to begin this year’s project – converting 50% of the remaining backyard green space back into its natural native prairie state).
If you speak to me one on one for almost any amount of time, my passion for pollinators (including bees and butterflies), the reestablishment of native prairie spaces in city spaces, and hatred of all things green lawn related will come up almost immediately. Things haven’t always been this way for me…it all started around seven years for purely selfish reasons. My divorce was complete, and I was stuck with a much too large house with an even larger yard. It was all too much for one person to maintain, so looking into ways to mow my lawn less was a priority. Almost immediately I found this article: https://healthylandethic.com/2013/11/17/why-prairies-matter-and-lawns-dont/
I bought into its message without hesitation: green grass lawns provide no long-term benefits to our, or the populations of wild animals, living experience. The article provides a great launching pad into this topic that everyone should be informed on. It states the obvious – the overuse of chemicals, combined with the overwatering of lawns is detrimental to our water supply (did you know that 99% of all open bodies of water tested in the United States contain common lawn pesticides?).
The article discusses how native prairies not only provide vital habitat to native birds and pollinators, but how their root systems extend up to 15 feet into the ground (as compared to the few inches that green grass lawns due). Why is that important? All green plants pull carbon gasses out of the air and store them in the ground. Native prairies are one of the most efficient ways we can reduce carbon gas from entering the atmosphere. Prairie root systems are also important for water filtration purposes (not to mention, once established they take little to no watering or maintenance). Be sure to check out the graphic showing different root systems compared to standard lawn grass.
As mentioned, I started looking for ways to cut back on lawn maintenance and it has quickly grown into a passion. As such, I can go on about a variety of topics related to lawns but will stop here for now and ask one thing from you: If you have a lawn, please consider returning some of it to a native state, or at least include native plants in your gardening and landscaping – our world needs it. The more you do, the more you will see your ecosystem change and I promise you that once the bees and butterflies begin showing up, the native birds will as well (it sounds geeky, but it is pretty cool). While you aren’t solving all the world’s problems, you will be contributing to the solution in a tangible way. Who knows, maybe it will become one of your passions that you can spread along to others as well.